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Strokes caused by Covid-19 under the spotlight in world’s largest research study

Press release -

Strokes caused by Covid-19 under the spotlight in world’s largest research study

The Stroke Association is funding the world’s largest research study to investigate worrying reports that Covid-19 is causing life-threatening strokes [1-2].As Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the globe, this critical research may help to prevent Covid-19-related death and disability. The study will build on the work of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Data Science Centre at Health Data Research UK (HDRUK).

100,000 people in the UK have a stroke each year, that's one every five minutes and means that there are over 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK. Stroke is fourth biggest killer in the UK, the second biggest killer in the world and one of the leading causes of adult disability.

Announced today, the study uses health data from nearly all UK adults. Having access to large amounts of data will allow the researchers to follow the health of Covid-19 patients. Data analysts will compare stroke in patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 with patients without the virus, to confirm if Covid-19 increases risk of stroke and by how much.

The researchers will also analyse stroke risk and characteristics including age, sex, ethnicity and geography to identify which Covid-19 patients may be most at risk of stroke. Stroke risk due to Covid-19 will be compared to increases in stroke risk due to other infections and cardiovascular conditions.

Dr Rubina Ahmed, Research Director, Stroke Association said: “Stroke already strikes every five minutes and we’re extremely concerned that Covid-19 may lead to more strokes, destroying more lives. Equally concerning are reports that stroke patients who have Covid-19 may be younger, and experience more severe effects of stroke, including death [3]. Severe illness due to Covid-19 is a challenge enough– but it’s worrying that a deadly stroke might also be on the way. This new research can help guide the development of new treatments that can prevent life-threatening strokes.”

This research forms part of the CVD-COVID-UK flagship project consortium, which is led by the BHF Data Science Centre at HDR UK. This project consortium aims to understand the relationship between Covid-19 and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke in the UK population.

Dr William Whiteley, Reader in neurology at the University of Edinburgh and a lead on this research said: “Covid-19 may cause stroke in some patients. So far studies of Covid and stroke have been small. More data will improve our understanding and give a better idea of the risks of stroke after Covid-19 infection. With the funding of the Stroke Association and access to the data and research community brought together by the BHF Data Science Centre, the team can use health information from nearly all adults in the UK. By working with information specialists, we’ll be able to accurately detect even the smallest increase in risk of stroke across different groups of people. We’re incredibly grateful to have the support of charities to help get this urgent research underway, so that we can better inform patients and health care professionals about Covid-19 and risk of stroke.”

Dr Rubina Ahmed continues: “We will be living with Covid-19 for the foreseeable future and we don’t want to see the pandemic leave more deadly strokes in its wake. Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability in the UK and the second biggest killer in the world. This research is crucial to our understanding of Covid-19 and strokes, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our income and is threatening life-saving breakthroughs. Now more than ever, we need the public’s support. If you can, please help us find a way through the research funding crisis by donating today, so that we can fund more life-saving research.”

Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association said: “We've been supporting stroke survivors throughout the pandemic through our Helpline and our Stroke Association Connect and Here For You services. Strokes changes lives in an instant and stroke survivors need support to recover, cope and adapt and those with Covid-19 may have additional needs. We need to be prepared with new knowledge about links between Covid-19 and stroke to support people affected by stroke long into the future.”

Prof Cathie Sudlow, Director of the BHF Data Science Centre at Health Data Research UK said: “The BHF Data Science Centre is delighted to be providing the scientific and data access infrastructure to enable this important Stroke Association-funded research project. We look forward to working with and supporting Dr Whiteley and his research team as they generate insights to help people with stroke, their carers and health professionals understand the impact of Covid-19 on stroke risk, and make informed decisions about their treatment and care.”

Over the past 30 years the Stroke Association has played a crucial role in supporting stroke research in the UK. This year, as a result of the pandemic the charity has had to halve its budget for stroke research.

To find out more about research funded by the charity visit stroke.org.uk/research or to donate please go to: stroke.org.uk/donate-research

-Ends-

For more information on research at the Stroke Association, contact: Sokina Miah, PR & Media Officer at the Stroke Association at Sokina.Miah@stroke.org.ukor 0207 5660337.

Notes to editors:

[1] Ling, Mao., Huijuan, Jin.,Mengdie, Wang., et al. Neurologic Manifestations of Hospitalized Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Wuhan, China. JAMA Neurol. 2020;77(6):683-690. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.1127.

[2] Shadi, Yaghi., Koto, Ishida., Jose, Torres., et al. SARS-CoV-2 and Stroke in a New York Healthcare System. 2020;51:2002–2011. doi.org/10.1161/STROKEAHA.120.030335Stroke.

[3] Ntaios G, et al. Characteristics and outcomes in patients with Covid-19 and acute ischemic stroke. Stroke. 2020;51:e254–e258.

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About the Stroke Association
  • Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK and it changes lives in an instant.
  • The Stroke Association is a charity working across the UK to support people to rebuild their lives after stroke. We believe that everyone deserves to live the best life they can after stroke. From local support services and groups, to online information and support, anyone affected by stroke can visit stroke.org.uk or call our dedicated Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100 to find out about support available locally.
  • Our specialist support, research and campaigning are only possible with the courage and determination of the stroke community and the generosity of our supporters. With more donations and support, we can help rebuild even more lives.
  • You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

About the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre

  • The British Heart FoundationData Science Centre is a partnership between Health Data Research UK and the British Heart Foundation. We work closely with patients, the public, NHS organisations, researchers, and clinicians to promote the safe and ethical use of data for research into the causes, prevention and treatment of all diseases of the heart and circulation.
  • Our vision is to improve the public’s cardiovascular health through the power of large-scale data and advanced analytics across the UK. Funded by the BHF for an initial £10M over 5 years and embedded within HDR UK, the centre provides the leadership, co-ordination, and engagement needed to deliver this vision, through building capability, capacity and infrastructure to drive excellence in data-enabled cardiovascular research.
  • To find out more about the BHF Data Science Centre, visit https://www.hdruk.ac.uk/help-with-your-data/bhf-data-science-centre/ or email bhfdsc@hdruk.ac.uk

Contacts

Angela Macleod

Angela Macleod

Press contact Press Officer National press and Stroke Association research and policy communications 07904 289900
Laura Thomas

Laura Thomas

Press contact Communications Officer Wales 07776508594
Ken Scott

Ken Scott

Press contact Press Officer North of England and Midlands 0115 778 8429
Daisy Dighton

Daisy Dighton

Press contact Press Officer London and East of England 02079401358
Martin Oxley

Martin Oxley

Press contact Press Officer South of England 07776 508 646
Vicki Hall

Vicki Hall

Press contact PR Manager Fundraising and local services 0161 742 7478
Scott Weddell

Scott Weddell

Press contact PR Manager Scotland and Northern Ireland 02075661528
Katie Padfield

Katie Padfield

Press contact Head of PR & Media This team is not responsible for booking marketing materials or advertising
Out of hours contact

Out of hours contact

Press contact Media queries 07799 436008
Kate Asselman

Kate Asselman

Press contact Artist Liaison Lead 07540 518022
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The UK's leading stroke charity helping people to rebuild their lives after stroke

The Stroke Association. We believe in life after stroke. That’s why we campaign to improve stroke care and support people to make the best possible recovery. It’s why we fund research to develop new treatments and ways to prevent stroke. The Stroke Association is a charity. We rely on your support to change lives and prevent stroke. Together we can conquer stroke.

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